Airline Credit Card Finder

Enjoy strong rewards on flights.

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There’s an airline credit card out there for every type of traveler. To help you determine which card is right for you, we assembled our top picks.

Best airline credit cards

Best for airline rewards and transferable airline points: The Platinum Card® from American Express

Amex is consistently one of the best options for flight rewards. Though it comes with a $550 annual fee, you’ll earn stellar points on flights booked directly with airlines or through American Express Travel (see rates & fees).
  • Rewards. Earn 5x points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel and on prepaid hotels booked on American Express Travel. All other purchases earn 1x points.
  • Welcome offer. Earn 60,000 rewards points after you make $5,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening.
  • Travel perks. Get an annual airline fee credit, annual Uber credits, TSA PreCheck/Global Entry application fee credit, airport lounge access.

Find out more ways to transfer airline miles between programs

Best for Delta: Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express

This card is tailored to the Delta loyalist because it comes with perks like a companion certificate, Delta SkyClub access and a miles boost to quickly reach Medallion status and earn reward flights.
  • Welcome offer. Earn 75,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you make $5,000 in eligible purchases with your card within the first 3 months of account opening.
  • Rewards. Earn 2x miles on Delta purchases and 1x miles on other eligible purchases.
  • Delta SkyClub access. Get complimentary access to all Delta Sky Clubs, which otherwise costs $59 for a single visit. If you visit Delta Sky Clubs once a month, that’s $708 savings per year. In addition, get discounted access for $29 for up to two guests.

Compare all Delta credit cards

Best for United: United℠ Explorer Card

The United℠ Explorer Card offers more bang for your buck versus other mid-tier airline cards. Besides United perks — which include two United Club one-time passes each card year — you’ll also get a $100 credit for your TSA PreCheck or Global Entry application every four years.
  • Signup bonus. Earn 40,000 bonus miles after you make $2,000 in purchases with your card within the first 3 months of account opening.
  • Rewards. Earn 2x miles on United purchases, eligible hotel stays and restaurant spending. Earn 1x miles on all other purchases.
  • Global Entry or TSA PreCheck fee credit. Get up to $100 credit once every for years to cover for your Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee.

Compare United Airlines credit cards

Best for American Airlines: Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®

If you often fly American Airlines and you want a card with the highest value, consider this one. It offers a generous signup bonus, first checked bag free, preferred boarding and a $125 flight discount once you meet the spend criteria.
  • Signup bonus. Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage bonus miles after you make $2,500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening.
  • Rewards. Earn 2x miles on eligible American Airlines purchases, on gas and restaurant purchases. Earn 1x miles on all other purchases.
  • American Airlines perks. Get first checked bag free and preferred boarding on American Airlines itineraries, plus 25% savings on eligible in-flight food and beverage purchases, and a $125 flight discount when you spend $20,000 or more in a cardmembership year.

Compare American Airlines credit cards

Best for Southwest: Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card

This is the highest-priced Southwest credit card, but you can offset the annual fee with the yearly $75 travel credit and the 7,500 anniversary points you get each year (valued around $75). You can also find great value from the priority boarding and the generous welcome offer.
  • Signup bonus. Earn 40,000 points after you make $1,000 in purchases with your card within the first 3 months of account opening.

  • Rewards. Earn 2x points on Southwest Airlines purchases and spending with hotel and car rental partners. Earn 1x points on all other purchases.
  • Southwest Airlines perks. Get four Upgraded Boarding passes each year, $75 annual travel credit and 7,500 bonus Southwest points each card anniversary.

Compare Southwest Airlines credit cards

Methodology

We looked at a variety of factors consumers might consider when selecting an airline rewards credit card, including the particular airline, earning rates, possible rewards, redemption values and additional perks or benefits associated with traveling. Those cards that stood out above the rest in a particular category, or served a specific niche, were chosen for our list.

What’s changed in 2019

With so many great airline credit cards to choose from, we decided to highlight the respective branded cards this year that provided the right mix of value versus the annual fee. Notable this year is the United℠ Explorer Card, which offers a terrific value versus other mid-tier airline cards.

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Our pick for an airline credit card

Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express

  • Earn 60,000 bonus miles after you use your new card to make $2,000 in purchases within your first 3 months and a $50 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new card within your first 3 months. Offer expires 10/30/2019.
  • Earn 2 miles on every eligible dollar spent on purchases made directly with Delta. Earn 1 mile for every eligible dollar spent on purchases.
  • Check your first bag free on Delta flights – that’s a savings of up to $240.
  • Receive Main Cabin 1 Priority Boarding on your Delta flights, stow your carry-on bag and settle in sooner.
  • Enjoy a $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.
  • Terms apply.
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Compare airline credit cards

Many airlines offer cobranded credit cards with airline-specific perks. If you fly with different carriers, you might like a general travel card instead.

Name Product Welcome offer Rewards Annual fee Filter values
60,000 miles after spending $2,000 in the first 3 months, plus $50 when you make a Delta purchase in the same timeframe
2x miles on Delta purchases and 1x miles on all other purchases
$0 intro annual fee for the first year ($95 thereafter)
Earn 60,000 miles after spending $2,000 in the first 3 months, plus $50 when you make a direct Delta purchase in the same timeframe. Rates & fees
40,000 miles after spending $2,000 in the first 3 months
2x miles at restaurants, hotels and United and 1x miles on all other purchases
$0 intro annual fee for the first year ($95 thereafter)
40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
75,000 miles and 5,000 MQMs after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months plus $100 when you make a Delta purchase in the same timeframe
2x miles on Delta purchases and 1x miles for all other purchases
$195
Earn 75,000 miles and 5,000 MQMs after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months plus $100 when you make a Delta purchase in the same timeframe. Rates & fees
10,000 miles after spending $500 in the first 3 months
2x miles at US restaurants and on direct Delta purchases and 1x miles on all other purchases
$0
Earn 10,000 bonus miles after spending $500 in purchases on your new card in your first 3 months of card membership. Rates & fees
40,000 points after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months
2x points on Southwest Airlines and 1x points on all other purchases
$99
Earn 40,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.

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Compare cards by airline

American Airlines logo Delta logo Southwest-Logo united-airlines-Logo

Membership Rewards vs. Chase Ultimate Rewards

You can transfer points to select airline and hotel partners with Amex’s Membership Rewards and Chase’s Ultimate Rewards.

Amex has an edge in international airline partners, which makes it the favorite in our book. But look at the lists of partners for yourself and see what works for you. Chase lets you transfer points to Southwest and World of Hyatt, two high-value options that Amex doesn’t work with.

For more on earning airline miles, check out our full miles earning guide.

How to choose an airline credit card

  1. Decide if you want a general or cobranded card.
    A general card can be effective if you fly with different airlines. Depending on the provider, you may be able to transfer your points or miles to partner airlines. This gives you a lot of flexibility you wouldn’t get with a cobranded card.

    If you’re loyal to a certain airline, you might like a cobranded card. You probably shouldn’t get the card for its rewards, as you’ll often find stronger points or miles from a general card. But the cobranded product might offer airline-specific perks such as priority boarding, free checked baggage and access to the airline’s lounges. If you’re on the fence, check out our top picks for airline rewards programs.

  2. Think about how much you want to pay.
    Airline credit cards usually fall into three general price points: $0, $99 or $450 a year.A no-annual-fee cobranded card usually offers limited airline perks — for example, savings on inflight purchases. The mid-tier card typically offers a few more benefits, such as priority boarding and checked baggage. The $450-a-year card may offer airport-lounge access, TSA PreCheck/Global Entry credit or a companion pass.If you can forego airline benefits, you might like a general travel card with no annual fee. You’ll find several options with great rewards.
  3. Apply for the card.
    You’ll need information like your full name, contact details, Social Security number, date of birth, gross annual income and employment information.
  4. Wait for your card.
    Many travel-card providers will give you a decision on your application immediately. If a provider needs to review your application manually, it may take a few days to a few weeks to hear back.

    If you’re approved, look for your card in the mail within seven to 10 days.

Bottom line

If you want to earn flexible points or miles on flights, consider a general travel credit card. If you’re loyal to a certain airline, you might like a cobranded card.

Not sure if an airline card is right for you? Check out our guide to travel credit cards for more options.

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